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Courtesy begins at home
Sir: I landed at the Islamabad airport after a visit abroad. I saw ahead of me long queues of people waiting to be ‘signed’ in by the FIA’s immigration desk. Everybody had to be photographed. It was taking very long. A fellow traveller explained that the officials were barely computer literate and were using one-finger typing to enter the data. The foreigners’ queue was moving fast and was soon gone while people with Pakistani passports stood waiting for a long time.
It struck me that this is how the rest of the world treats Pakistanis. We bear this indignity with fortitude. But now I was in Pakistan, not a foreign country. Is it not enough that we, including some of our leaders, are humiliated abroad through demeaning checks and delays? Why should we face a similar ordeal at our own airports?
This practice must stop. Like other civilised societies, we must have a walk-through facility for our own citizens. The much-touted foreign currency reserves which the government never tires harping about have accumulated thanks to the remittances by Pakistanis living abroad and not any astute financial management in Islamabad. It’s high time the government facilitates its people.
Sir: State Minister Ameer Muqaam, who is also president of the NWFP chapter of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), has brought out front page advertisements in various daily newspapers to proclaim his party’s victory in the third phase of local elections in the province. He has also attributed this victory to the enlightened moderation policies initiated by General Pervez Musharraf. From my interaction with the councillors I have learnt that the results were influenced by the candidates’ “chamak damak”. The councillors were not bothered about the president’s enlightened moderation. They were even less interested in the candidate’s merit. Money was the overriding factor. Media reports indicate that in Punjab and Sindh the results were similarly influenced by the respective chief ministers deploying the proverbial carrot and stick. Mr Ameer Muqaam may earn a ‘well done’ from Gen Musharraf for such advertisements but he cannot fool the public.
Sir: Daily Times is one of my favourite newspapers. I like the diversity and versatility of its writers and commentators. Its magazines reflect what is happening in social, cultural and literary spheres. However, it would be great if the paper could also provide a diary of social, cultural and literary events. This will add value to Daily Times.
Rape in UK and Pakistan
Sir: The ‘British Crime Survey’ issued by the British Home Office, reveals that every year 61,000 women are raped in England and Wales. The report further reveals that 10 percent of all women in Britain are victims of some sort of violence at some time or the other. A shocking incident was reported a few years ago, when Dr Thomas Courtney, a gynaecologist who had a practice in Harley Street in London, was arrested for raping his patients. Developing countries like Pakistan are fortunately still alien to terms like “serial rapists”. I fail to see therefore how some individuals and groups can paint Pakistan as the worst place in the world in this regard.
FAHAD MAJEED ABBASI
Sir: This is with reference to Jonathon Power’s article (On never tracking down Bin Laden, Daily Times, October 7, 2005). Mr Power talks about Weisenthal’s tracking down the Nazis guilty of war crimes, particularly genocide. But he seems to ignore the fact Hitler and his Nazis had to be defeated in a World War before Mr Wiesenthal could start his job. In fact, as long as the Nazis were in power, he was running for his own life. Had Hitler won the war, Mr Wiesenthal himself may not have survived. The same applies to Bin Laden. Any talk of bringing him to justice is futile before the war on terror has been conclusively won.
Sir: As we all know, unemployment is one of the major problems faced by our country today. I think the following measures can help solve this problem:
1) Population control. Once population growth slows down, the number of those seeking employment will automatically come down. Some progress has already been made in this direction. Our population growth rate, once 3.1 percent, now stands at 2.1 percent.
2) Capital accumulation requires rapid economic development. In order to increase capital accumulation, savings should be encouraged. Higher capital formation means more investment, which can translate into higher employment levels.
3) Rapid expansion of industry can also create jobs.
4) Self-employment in small business, workshops and clinics should be encouraged.
ZEESHAN TANVEER HASHMI
Genocide in Darfur
Sir: Ethnic-cleansing in the Darfur region in Sudan has reached new heights. The Arab Janjaweed militias are on a rampage to ‘cleanse’ Darfur of the non-Arab, black Muslims. So far 40,000 black Muslims have been killed and millions displaced. It is mind-numbing that so many ‘Islamic’ parties that are so outspoken about injustices in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya have remained silent over the genocide in Darfur.
Spirit of Ramazan
Sir: Most of us try to be God-fearing and pious during the month of Ramazan. But while Ramazan is observed once a year, the God we are taught to fear is ever present, ever seeing. What happens during the other 11 months of the year? It is a common observation that when a stranger knocks at your door during the month of Ramazan, we extend hospitality without question. But when the same person happens to turn up during some other month, we are not as welcoming? It is in the latter case that one’s true spirit of generosity is tested. Ramazan should be the guiding light for the rest of the year. We will be blessed throughout the year if we carry the spirit of Ramazan with us.
Sir: The Northern Areas of Pakistan are blessed with rich natural resources. Gems and precious stones are found in abundance in these areas. When it comes to quality, these gems are simply the best in the world. Unfortunately, arrangements have not been made to tap the international market. The mine managements lack access to technology for efficient exploitation of the reserves. As a result these gems are sold at low prices. The government is not providing any assistance, even though it knows that these gems can be a major source of foreign exchange.
Traders are making individual efforts to meet this challenge. But there is a need to address this problem at the national level. The gem trade can significantly contribute towards the development of the Northern Areas. If it is impossible to establish a gem institute, then at least the machinery required for cutting and polishing these gems should be provided. The Export Promotion Bureau can play an important role in tapping the international market.
Earthquake in Pakistan
Sir: Another example of official apathy was witnessed on Saturday when Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the information minister, speaking to a TV channel, professed ignorance about the earthquake in Pakistan. He was totally unaware of the catastrophe and insisted that it was a minor quake. He only mentioned the collapse of a wall in a school in Rawalpindi where six students were injured, failing to refer to much bigger incidents like the collapse of two blocks of the Margalla Towers.
Before the minister appeared on TV, the channel had already shown the rubble of the towers and anyone watching would have realised that the casualty count would be very high. The information minister had no information about this and other buildings that had collapsed in Islamabad, Lahore and Swat. He was sure that everything was normal.
The quake happened on a Saturday. Most children living in the Towers were at home. Although people and police were trying to help people, there progress was slow.
Sir: As Turkey is about to start accession talks with the EU, opinion polls across Europe show a clear opposition to full Turkish membership. According to a Sky News poll, over 70 percent said ‘no’ to whether Turkey should be allowed to join the EU? This signals that the overwhelming feeling in Europe is that Turkey, which has a majority Muslim population, should not be allowed to join the EU. In a similar poll carried out in France in 2004 in which the majority of people opposed Turkey joining the EU, 30 percent of the participants explained that their opposition was based on cultural differences.
Even though the Turkish ruling elite is committed to a secular system, going so far as to ban hijab in government offices and universities, it still sits on the sidelines of European politics. It has become evident that whatever the Turkish ruling elite does to try and gain acceptance and membership within the EU, the door will remain shut in its face.
Turkey and the EU
Sir: Most EU citizens view Turkey as a poor country of 70 million and an agricultural backwater and more than half of them do not want Turkey to join the EU. But Turkey has been taking steps to improve its image in the West, starting with its poor human rights record. It has finally allowed the Kurds to teach Kurdish in schools and allowed a Kurdish radio channel to start transmission.
But when it comes to freedom of speech, Turkey has a long way to go. It must repeal laws that protect the state from criticism. This includes the touchy subjects of Northern Cyprus, the Kurds and the Armenian genocide. Turkey will also have to embrace European and American values if it wants to be treated as a European country. President Chirac has stated there will have to be a cultural sea change in Turkish society over the next 10-15 years for the country to enter the EU.
It now appears that France and other EU countries will hold referendums on the question of Turkey’s EU membership. Currently, no more than 20 percent of citizens in these countries want Turkey to join the EU as they are afraid of an influx of Turkish labour into their markets. However, Turkey is planning on spending $25 million on improving the country’s image in the EU countries where anti-Turkish sentiment is strong.